Strange Ontology: Week begging 25th May 2009

Original research

26th May

The gene that links gum disease to heart problems

Which mentions: Michaud et al. (2008) Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study The Lancet Oncology 9:550-558

Life-saving wonder drug to fight prostate cancer ‘available in just two years’

A report on: Attard et al. (2009) Selective Inhibition of CYP17 With Abiraterone Acetate Is Highly Active in the Treatment of Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer Journal of Clinical Oncology doi:10.1200/JCO.2008.20.0642

27th May

Green tea extract could help to fight leukaemia

A report on: Shanafelt et al. (2009) Phase I Trial of Daily Oral Polyphenon E in Patients With Asymptomatic Rai Stage 0 to II Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Journal of Clinical Oncology doi:10.1200/JCO.2008.21.1284

Cancer sufferers facing extra security checks at airports after common drug destroys fingerprints

A report on: Choo and Tan (2009) Travel warning with capecitabine Annals of Oncology doi:10.1093/annonc/mdp278

28th May

Major tumour-busting ‘breakthrough’ in fight against breast and ovarian cancer

A report on: Yun and Hiom (2009) CtIP-BRCA1 modulates the choice of DNA double-strand-break repair pathway throughout the cell cycle Nature 459:460-463

31st May

Boosting levels of vitamin D ‘could cut cancer by up to 25%’

A report on: Garland (2009) Symposium in Print on the Epidemiology of Vitamin D and Cancer Annals of Epidemiology doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.02.002

Testicular cancer test on the horizon as scientists pinpoint faulty genes

A report on: Kanetsky et al. (2009) Common variation in KITLG and at 5q31.3 predisposes to testicular germ cell cancer Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.393

And: Rapley et al. (2009) A genome-wide association study of testicular germ cell tumor Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.394

Causes in brief

25th May

As a woman is hypnotised into believing she’s had surgery: Yes, the power of the mind can heal your body

“Even being told you are in a ‘high-risk’ group for a certain cancer, heart disease or stroke seems to increase your chances of getting these conditions.”

30th May

How 200,00 kitchen utensils were recalled by Marks & Spencer after cancer alert

“The chemical [diaminodiphenylmethane] is found in primary aromatic amines, a group of compounds shown to be related to cancer during animal testing.”


26th May

Record 10,400 Britons hit by deadliest skin cancers

“Last month the charity revealed that malignant melanoma had overtaken cervical cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in their 20s. Almost every day, one woman aged 20 and 29 is diagnosed with skin cancer – making it twice as common as breast cancer.”

Shyness could cost me my life: How a mother too embarrassed to discuss her symptoms is now battling advanced cancer

“Every year, around 35,000 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed in the UK. The second most common cancer after breast cancer, it causes more deaths every year than breast and cervical cancer put together, although it receives far less publicity.”

REVEALED: The secret to losing half a stone overnight… Get a tan

“‘Responsible action has to be taken now as in the UK alone, there are more than 67,000 new cases of skin cancer every year and the figures are rising faster than any other form of cancer.”

29th May

Facebook forced to lift ban on breast cancer victim’s ‘sexual and abusive’ mastectomy scar photos

“Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK, with around 45,000 cases diagnosed each year.”

BBC sports presenter Clare Balding is battling thyroid cancer

“Thyroid cancers are a fairly rare form of the disease, with around 1,600 new cases in the UK each year.

Women account for around 75 per cent of cases and surgery is their main option, with most cases able to be treated successfully.”

Revolutionary bikini to make tan lines history: ‘See-through’ swimming cossie guarantees all-over bronzing

“However, there was concern from skin cancer campaigners who are already tackling an increase in cases of malignant melanoma.

The number of people who have been diagnosed with the condition is expected to reach 10,000 this year.”

31st May

‘Her tumour weighed the same as two bags of sugar’: Melanie Slade on her sister’s battle with kidney cancer

“[Kidney cancer] mainly affects adults aged over 50, with more than 60 per cent of cases diagnosed in men. There are more than 7,500 newly diagnosed cases in the UK every year and more than 3,700 people died from kidney cancer in 2007. The one-year survival rate is only 68 per cent for men and 65 per cent for women. After five years, that drops to about 50 per cent for both sexes.”


31st May

New test for lung cancer ‘could save thousands’

An advert for these guys.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 18th March 2009

One of the oddest things about ploughing through every week to chart the Mail’s cancerphilia is the complete lack of reflectiveness of the Mail’s columnists. Take this, from Jan Moir’s MPs’ taste? Pass the John Lewis sick bag: “Jade Goody had the services of professional make-up artists to make her look radiant in her dying days. These are media conceits, which muddy the truth and make real-life cancer patients feel worse. Ask yourself this: What is the real purpose of the Farrah Fawcett documentary, except to glamorise poor, dying Farrah?”. Or this, from Deborah Ross’ Vote for me or I’ll poke your eyes out!: “Also, we [her proposed political party] will keep everyone on their toes by saying wine gives you cancer one day, and declaring it good for the heart the next. It’ll be fun.” You begin to wonder whether they read the paper they write for – who is doing this glamourising, who is keeping everyone on their toes? It isn’t the government dispensing the weekly potted summary of essentially random studies, it isn’t the academic media who are reporting on celebrities. It’s the Mail. Their newspaper. Which they write for. Themselves. Should someone tell them? The poor things probably think they’re writing for the Guardian or something – their evil agents every week carefully cutting their columns out and sticking them over Ben Goldacre’s before allowing them to see them.

Incidentally, the article on tea gets the Finnish study wrong – it referred to both tea and coffee, not just tea, found a reduction of a particular type of stroke, nots strokes qua strokes, and only in male smokers, not men in general.

This week, there might be a pill for renal cancer, tea is good for you, ginger might make chemo less awful and there might be a treatment for liver cancer involving an engineered virus. Mastectomies might not always be the way forward, however.

The Motzer and Molina paper is open source.

Original research

18th May

New kidney cancer pill extends the lives of patients by two years

A report on: Motzer and Molina (2009) Targeting Renal Cell Carcinoma Journal of Clinical Oncology doi: 10.1200/JCO.2009.21.8461

19th May

Can cancer drugs harm your memory? Patients complain of mental problems after chemo

Which mentions in passing: Skoogh et al. (2008) Long-term cognitive function among testicular cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy Journal of Clinical Oncology 26:5035

Is a mastectomy for a breast lump ALWAYS a lifesaver… or could it be a terrible mistake?

Which mentions: Zahl, Mæhlen and Welch (2008) The Natural History of Invasive Breast Cancers Detected by Screening Mammography Archives of Internal Medicine 168:2311-2316

And also: Gøtzsche et al. (2009) Breast screening: the facts—or maybe not British Medical Journal 338:b86

21st May

Brighten the twilight years: ‘Sunshine vitamin’ boosts brain function in the elderly

A report on: Lee et al. (2009) Association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cognitive performance in middle-aged and older European men Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry doi:10.1136/jnnp.2008.165720

22nd May

Three cups of tea a day ‘can cut heart attack risk by 70%’

A report on: Ruxton (2009) The health effects of black tea and flavonoids Nutrition & Food Science 39:283-294

Also mentioning: Larsson et al. (2008) Coffee and tea consumption and risk of stroke subtypes in male smokers Stroke 39:1681-7

Also mentioning: A French study I can’t trace using the information given in the article.

Scientists adapt common cold virus to attacks cancer cells but leave healthy tissue unharmed

A report on: Cawood et al. (2009) Use of Tissue-Specific MicroRNA to Control Pathology of Wild-Type Adenovirus without Attenuation of Its Ability to Kill Cancer Cells Public Library of Science Pathogens 5:e1000440.

23rd May

How taking ginger can help ease nausea after chemotherapy

Mentioning in passing: Ryan et al. (2009) Ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea in cancer patients: A URCC CCOP randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 644 cancer patients Journal of Clinical Oncology 27:15s(abstr 9511)

Causes in brief

19th May

For heart survivors, a big waistline could be a lifeline

“Evidence from other studies suggests obese patients also fare better after being diagnosed with other chronic illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer and kidney failure.”

The (non-cancer related) study is here.

20th May

Jacko denies he’s got skin cancer – but this horrific picture of his bleached-out face will cause fans just as much alarm

“Vitiligo, the disease which Jackson was reportedly diagnosed with in 1986, is thought to be linked to skin cancer.

The pigmentation condition means that there are areas of the sufferers’ skin which do not contain melanin, which gives the skin colour and protects it from the sun’s rays.

Due to this reduced protection, those with the disease are at greater risk from cancer.”

21st May

£3 Asda sun lotion shines out as top performer among protective creams

“UVB light is linked to several types of skin cancer, including the most serious and least treatable, cutaneous malignant melanoma.

Some products also claim protection against UVA, which is identified through a star rating.

UVA is also linked to some aggressive cancers and ageing.”

22nd May

Rice milk arsenic contamination prompts food watchdog warning for children to stop drinking it

“Arsenic is known as a poison but is also associated with the development of certain cancers.”

23rd May

Bed by 11pm, lose the paunch – and take up the electric guitar… How to avoid a midlife crisis

“This not only looks unsightly, but fat around the waist is linked to metabolic syndrome which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and even prostate cancer.”


19th May

Girl, 10, is the youngest person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with breast cancer

“He said about 0.1 percent of breast cancer occurs in children and is generally less aggressive than in adults.

Often those who develop breast cancer at such a young age have a genetic disposition to the disease.”

20th May

Schoolgirl, 8, becomes youngest Briton to battle ovarian cancer

“Around one in 120 women develops ovarian cancer by the age of 70. Although it is usually found in women after the menopause, it can sometimes strike in young children.

In 2005, three girls aged four or under were diagnosed with the disease and one aged between five and nine.”

21st May

Pictured: Cancer-stricken Patrick Swayze poses with wife Lisa to combat ‘death’ rumours

“Last year, after losing a dramatic amount of weight, Swayze was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his pancreas.

As it had spread to his liver, he was told surgery was not an option.

Medical experts say most patients have less than six months to live after being diagnosed with such cancer.”

23rd May

Tandemic! How love of sunbeds has sent skin cancer soaring

“However, new statistics from Cancer Research UK reveal that tanning can be a killer. It is now the most common cause of malignant melanoma among 15 to 34-year-olds, and sunbeds double the risk of developing it.”


19th May

Health news: Gas to beat MRSA, how blackcurrants soothe dry eyes and caffeine for pain

“A Caffeine drip is being used to combat pain.

In a new trial, it is being given intravenously to treat acute and chronic pain associated with cancer. It is administered in conjunction with traditional drugs to see if the caffeine boosts their pain-killing effects.”

22nd May

Mother-of-eight Colleen Hauser goes on run to stop court forcing son, 13, to have chemotherapy

“A mother has gone on the run with her desperately-sick teenage son to stop him having chemotherapy for cancer.

Parents Colleen and Tony Hauser have resolutely refused to let Daniel, 13, be treated with conventional medicine, instead advocating alternative treatments.”

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 11th May 2009

The most interesting thing this week is the story covering the latest research on alcohol pricing. Does anyone remember how the Mail responded to Dr Liam Donaldson’s suggestion, earlier in the year, that passive drinking was a scourge which should be responded to with price floors for alcoholic drinks? Well, his position was based on this week’s research, which is covered approvingly as it gives the paper an opportunity to round on the Prime Minister for supporting their previous position. As Mr. Littlejohn so often points out -you couldn’t make it up.

The ‘Obesity linked to many, many thousand cases of cancer, even more than we used to think’ story has gone in ‘Other’, as it doesn’t appear to be peer reviewed. As is the one on gender bending chemicals. If proven wrong, I will happily provide a full reference for it.

There’s also a story I haven’t been able to categorise, Gwyneth Paltrow says shampoo causes cancer. Is she right? (16th May) – it is, gloriously, a reassuring story debunking cancer-related myths. Which doesn’t refer to original research, or causes, or stats, and which seems to deserve slightly more prominence than to be buried in ‘other’. Congratulations to the Daily Mail for taking this positive stance for public information. I look forward to a similar approach on MMR, global warming and same-sex adoptions.

Nothing new causes or cures cancer this week, but we might soon have a better test for prostate cancer and price floors may help cancers of the liver.

The Meier et al. (2008) paper is open access.

Original Research

12th May

Health news: How blood pills cut your risk of dementia, whether mud baths ease arthritic pain and how prostate results vary day to day

A report on: Erm, something in this journal. Sorry – but you try tracking it down using the information given in the article…

13th May

Accurate prostate test which could save hundreds from surgery every year a step nearer

A report on: Nilsson et al. (2009) Prostate cancer-derived urine exosomes: a novel approach to biomarkers for prostate cancer British Journal of Cancer 100:1603–1607

15th May

Charging 50p a unit for alcohol ‘would save 3,400 lives a year’

A report on:  Meier et al. (2008) INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL PRICING AND PROMOTION: Part B; Modelling the Potential Impact of Pricing and Promotion Policies for Alcohol in England: Results from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model Sheffield: University of Sheffield

Causes in brief

11th May

Credit crunch sees people opt for sunbeds over beach holidays

“Some UV rays from sunbeds can be up to 15 times higher than that of the midday sun and using a sunbed once a month or more can increase the risk of skin cancer by more than half”

12th May

Taking folic acid for a year ‘cuts risk of premature births by 70%’

“But there are concerns that [folic acid] could raise the risk of breast and bowel cancer.”

The curse of thalidomide limb defects is explained 50 years on

“A synthetic form of thalidomide could also be a very effective treatment for early stage cancers, they say.”

13th May

Health officials label boy, 5, ‘overweight’… for exceeding NHS guidelines by just 1lb

“‘As adults, children who are overweight are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

16th May

Millions face serious health risks over lack of vitamin D in diets

“Around 90 per cent of the body’s supply of vitamin D comes from sunlight, but exposure is controversial as it can trigger skin cancer, said Dr Ruxton.”

Brave Michael Jackson shows his face as he ‘secretly fights skin cancer’

“Experts have warned that anyone who bleaches their skin would increase their risk of cancer”

[see also the ‘Skin Cancer Facts’ section on the same page]


14th May

300,000 old people are denied the right to die in their own homes, say MPs

“The report said half a million people die each year in England – three quarters following chronic illness, such as cancer or heart disease.”

17th May

Heart disease is not a ‘man-thing’: How to stop the equal opportunities killer

“Women may be more afraid of breast cancer but it is more than five times as likely they will die from heart disease. It is so common that one in three adults of both sexes over 65 has some form of heart complaint.”

How Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s wife lost five stone on just 500 calories a day

“This year’s walk has already raised more than £1.3million to help combat  the most common cancer among British women [breast cancer], claiming more than 12,500 lives a year.”


11th May

Obesity ’causes 19,000 cancer cases every year’

A report on this press release.

Does cancer treatment mean my sex life is over?

“Although radiotherapy is an effective treatment for prostate cancer, about 70 per cent of patients are subsequently unable to sustain an erection.”

13th May

Gender-bending chemical timebomb fear for boys’ fertility

A report on this report.

Also mentioning: Myrup et al. (2008) Testicular cancer risk in first- and second generation immigrants to Denmark Journal of the National Cancer Institute 100:41-47

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 4th May 2009

A bit of a quiet week this week – the only real development is that smoking causes cancer sooner if you’re a woman.

Original research

4th May

Women smokers get lung cancer earlier than men, says study

A report on: This study, the abstract of which is inexplicably unfindable.

5th May
New scans that can reveal if chemotherapy is working

A report on: Benz et al. (2009) FDG-PET/CT Imaging Predicts Histopathologic Treatment Responses after the Initial Cycle of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in High-Grade Soft-Tissue Sarcomas Clinical Cancer Research 15:2856

8th May

‘It’s just puppy fat’: How parents deceive themselves about their overweight children

A report on:Jones et al. (2009) Parental perceptions of body size and childhood adiposity at 6-8 years in the Gateshead Millennium Study paper presented at 17th European Congress on Obesity, 6-9 May

Also mentioning: Luttikhuis, Sauer, Stolk (2009) How do both parents perceive the weight status of their 3 to 5 year old child? paper presented at 17th European Congress on Obesity, 6-9 May

Causes in brief

4th May

Tests said Adele was pregnant – but her ‘baby’ was actually a tumour

“Most hydatidiform moles are benign and can be removed through surgery or treated with a low dose of chemotherapy (though they are not malignant, hydatidiform moles spread in a similar way to cancer).

In the majority of cases, this is the end of the problem. However, in a handful of women, the moles turn into cancer, as happened to Adele.”

5th May
New rules that label quarter of one-year-olds as ‘too heavy’

“Rapid weight-gain is regarded as most hazardous in the first year. It has been linked to obesity and increased risk of cancer and heart disease in later life.”

9th May

THE FOOD DOCTOR: It’s time to learn about the fats of life

“Saturated fat is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.”


7th May
Baby boy’s eye cancer spotted after he is snapped with mother’s camera phone

“Mr Aguirre confirmed Thomas had the rare form of eye cancer retinoblastoma, which affects 50 children under the age of five each year.”


5th May
Latest health news round-up: How folic acid could lower the risk of cancer and antibiotics can fix appendicitis

“Folic acid is being tested to see if it can lower a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. A trial is looking at whether supplements can stop or delay the development of the disease in women infected with human papillomavirus or HPV, implicated in 99 per cent of cervical cancers.”

9th May

Glowing plaster that destroys skin cancer by zapping it with light unveiled

An ad for these guys.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 27th April 2009

This week it’s old favourites aspirin and wine which cure your cancer, but doing so at the nail salon will completely negate all benefits.

Original research

28th April

Drug that prevents prostate cancer may be here within a year (and statins may offer protection too)

A report on: This study by Andriole presented at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (unfortunately you need to register to see the abstract, so the best I can do is the press release I’m afraid – if you’d like to register for abstracts, the site you want is this one)

Also, a report on: This study by Sauver, pressented at the same meeting (and suffering from the same access problems)

Also, a report on: Newsom-Davis et al. (2009) The promiscuous receptor British Journal of Urology International doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2009.08599.x

Blood test that shows if your cancer has spread

A report on:Robinson et al. (2009) Tumor Microenvironment of Metastasis in Human Breast Carcinoma: A Potential Prognostic Marker Linked to Hematogenous Dissemination Clinical Cancer Research doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2179

29th April

Taking aspirin in your 40s ‘cuts cancer risk’

A report on: Cuzick et al. (2009) Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for cancer prevention: an international consensus statement The Lancet Oncology 10:501-507

Having your nails done could increase the risk of skin cancer, doctors warn women

A report on: MacFarlane and Alonso (2009) Occurrence of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers on the Hands After UV Nail Light Exposure Archives of Dermatology 145:447-449

30th April

Half a glass of wine a day ‘can help you live five years longer’

A report on: Streppel et al. (2009) Long-term wine consumption is related tocardiovascular mortality and life expectancyindependently of moderate alcohol intake: the Zutphen Study Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health doi:10.1136/jech.2008.082198

1st May

Meet the ancestors: DNA study pinpoints Namibia as home to the world’s most ancient race

A report on: Tishkoff et al. (2009) The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans Science doi: 10.1126/science.1172257

Causes in brief

27th April

As the first over-the-counter drug for weight loss is launched we ask… could it actually be bad for your health?

“Evidence suggests that the recommended daily amount of vitamin D – 200 international units – is too low, and much higher amounts may protect us against cancer and heart disease.”

“The charity has pointed to research from the Food and Drugs Administration – the American government’s drug-licensing body – which suggested that orlistat may cause pre-cancerous changes in the gut’s lining, as well as gallstones… [GlaxoSmithKline, makers of the drug in question] added ‘The FDA has rejected the claim of a cancer link and so has the European regulatory agency.””

28th April

The women who have eaten a lifetime’s worth of fat – by the age of 50

“Eating too much fat raises the odds of obesity and a host of problems from diabetes to cancer.”

1st May

Cuppa that could help beat the bulge: Scientist finds slimming ingredient in white tea

“Previous research has suggested that drinking tea can cut the chance of ovarian cancer by a third.”

2nd May

My gluten-free recipe for a perfect family life, by Phil Vickery

“An intolerance to gluten prevents normal digestion and absorption of food. This in turn damages the gut lining so if a gluten-free diet is not followed, the disease can ultimately lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, bowel cancer and also cause infertility problems.”


1st May

Still got it: Liz Hurley shows off her slender legs as she recycles six-year-old dress

“‘Survival rates are rising, and each year we get closer to a cure. If breast cancer is detected early, it is 98 per cent curable.'”

Girl, 10, suffers burns on 70% of her body after 16 minutes in coin-operated tanning booth

“The number of cases of the most deadly skin cancer malignant melanoma has risen to almost 9,000 a year, with 1,800 deaths, and it is now the most common cancer in young adults aged 15 to 34 years.”

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 20th April

A busy week for original research, thanks in part to the annual shindig of the AACR in Denver. Blueberries sort your colon cancer, a hormone released during pregnancy sorts your breast cancer, but having dark hair increases your risk of skin cancer, nicotine gum ups your risk of oral cancer and burnt meat increases your chances of getting pancreatic cancer.

Also interesting is the story casting doubt on soya’s “superfood” status – see also Is soya a has-bean? (May 2006), Is too much soya bad for your health? (July 2007) and No, soya ISN’T a miracle food (April 2008). Nice to have some clarity on this subject at last…

I’ve also added a new category – Stats – to cover all the numerical stuff that used to go into ’causes in brief’ but which didn’t really belong there. I need to get out more.

The paper on nicotine gum is open access.

Original research

20th April

How blueberries can help battle the bulge

Mentioning as an afterthought: Reddy et al. (2007) Novel approaches for colon cancer prevention by types of dietary fat, pterostilbene and other food components paper presented at American Chemical Society 233rd National Meeting & Exposition, 25th March

Discovery of genetic ‘brakes’ could slow development of MS and cancer

A report on: The FANTOM Consortium, Riken Omics Science Center (2009) The transcriptional network that controls growth arrest and differentiation in a human myeloid leukemia cell line Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.375

21st April

Pregnancy hormone is new breast cancer hope

A report on: Venegas et al. (2009) Mammary cancer prevention by short treatment with human chorionic gonadotropin paper presented at 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, 20th April

New skin cancer warning for dark-haired easy tanners

A report on: Kanetsky et al. (2009) Candidate Risk Genes: Melanoma, Hereditary Cancer Syndromes, and Rare and Childhood Cancers paper presented at 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, 21st April

22nd April

How well-done meat can raise the risk of getting cancer

A report on: Anderson et al. (2009) Pancreatic cancer risk: associations with meat-derived carcinogen intake paper presented at 100th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, 21st April

23rd April

Chewing nicotine gum can ‘increase risk of mouth cancer’

A report on: Gemenetzidis et al. (2009) FOXM1 Upregulation is an Early Event in Human Squamous Cell Carcinoma and it is Enhanced by Nicotine during Malignant Transformation PLoS ONE 4:e4849

25th April

Why soya may not be such a super food after all

Mentioning: an unknown paper in the Journal of Nutrition

Mentioning (probably): Tan et al. (2006) Infant feeding with soy formula milk: effects on puberty progression, reproductive function and testicular cell numbers in marmoset monkeys in adulthood Human Reproduction doi:10.1093/humrep/dei421

Metioning: an unknown Japanese paper.

Causes in brief

23rd April

Gambler with terminal cancer wins thousands after betting he could survive the year

‘These wins are a huge incentive to stay alive,’ said Mr Mathews, who suffers from mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos.”

24th April

Britain’s kids are couch potatoes before they even get to school

“Official predictions suggest 90 per cent of today’s children will be overweight or obese by 2050 unless action is taken now, putting them at risk of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.”

25th April

Storm over embryo ‘bank’ which could be used as a body repair kit

“Research on using [stem] cells is still in its infancy, but it is thought that within ten years it could lead to cures for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and some forms of cancer.”


20th April

Men know more about women’s cancer than the way the disease affects men

“Each year around 31,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and around 2,000 young men are diagnosed with testicular cancer.”

21st April

ME AND MY OPERATION: My breast was rebuilt with stem cells from my tummy fat

“Every year more than 31,000 women in Britain have a lumpectomy for early-stage breast cancer, leaving a hollow in the breast.”

DR DAVID OLIVER: Elderly? Sorry… doctors just don’t give a damn about you?

“It’s the same with Alzheimer’s. The disease affects 700,000 people in the UK, but only £11 is spent per person every year on research, compared with £289 for each cancer patient.”

23rd April

Why deaths from breast cancer have fallen to a record low

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Britain, with 45,500 women diagnosed each year, or 125 every day – a 50 per cent rise in 25 years.

It is the second biggest cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.An average of 300 men are also diagnosed annually, with around 90 of them dying.”


21st April

The miracle survivor: I was given months to live… then my terminal cancer vanished

“Sharyn Mackay and John Pattison belong to an extraordinary club – people told they have terminal cancer only for their tumours to disappear inexplicably, to the astonishment of patient and doctor alike.”

24th April

New radiation fear over building used by atom pioneer Rutherford as cancer kills sixth ex-worker

“In a letter to Manchester University staff last month, Prof Coggan said the cluster of deaths was ‘unusual’ but added that he could not yet rule out sheer coincidence because there was no evidence linking pancreatic cancer to mercury or ionising radiation.”

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 13th April

Interestingly this week, as story went missing in between it arriving in my inbox and my checking it out – New prostate cancer cure ‘within three years’, scientists claim (16th April). Sounds like original research, if the link is ever unbroken, which is otherwise a bit thin on the ground this week with only potential new cures for Alzheimer’s causing cancer (possibly).

Original research

14th April

Stem cell fertility hope: Scientists make breakthrough in egg production which could put an end to the menopause

A report on: Zou et al. (2009) Production of offspring from a germline stem cell line derived from neonatal ovaries Nature Cell Biology doi:10.1038/ncb1869

So long sunburn! Scientists develop early warning strip which tells you EXACTLY when to hide in the shade

A report on:  Mills et al. (2009) Flagging up sunburn: a printable, multicomponent, UV-indicator that warns of the approach of erythema Chemical Communications 2009: 1345-1346

(see also The plaster that warns you about staying too long in the sun … by going red before you do, 14th March)

17th April

Worm protein could help ward off diseases such as Alzheimer’s

A report on: Mehta et al. (2009) Proteasomal Regulation of the Hypoxic Response Modulates Aging in C. elegans Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1173507

Causes in brief

14th April

Ask the doctor: How can you beat cystitis after 70 years of misery?

“We have 16,000 deaths each year from colon cancer, for instance, most of which could be avoided if colon polyps could be detected before they turn malignant.”

15th April

The 19-year-old who had a double mastectomy to beat family cancer curse

“The chance of a woman developing breast cancer in her lifetime is one in nine, according to Cancer Research UK….Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK, with around 45,000 cases diagnosed each year.”

16th April

Asbestos in schools will kill pupils, warns teacher dying of skin cancer

“Children are at risk of dying from cancer in adulthood after being exposed to asbestos in schools, teachers warned today.”

Also mentions: Rake et al.  (2009). Occupational, domestic and environmental mesothelioma risks in the British population: a case-control study British Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604879

17th April

It’s no one else’s damn business what we middle classes drink in the privacy of our own homes

“Whether you are a moderate drinker of red wine or you have another chosen tipple you are not only less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke but also less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney stones, digestive ailments, stress and depression, poor cognition and memory, Parkinson’s disease, hepatitis A, pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), angina pectoris, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, gallstones, or liver disease.”

A (potentially lethal) day in the life of a sunbed

“Experts last week blamed sunbeds for soaring rates of skin cancer among women in their 20s, with almost one woman a day now being diagnosed with the disease. Despite this, an estimated three million people in Britain still use them.”

18th April

The creams skin doctors use on their OWN faces

“They point out that low levels of the vitamin [D] are linked to breast, bowel and prostate cancer.”

19th April

‘I had the songs picked for my funeral and everything,’ says Ronan Keating on his cancer horror

“More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in the UK. It is genetic and most common among white men aged between 15 and 40.

Before 1970, under five per cent of sufferers survived the disease but, since the introduction of combination chemotherapy in the Seventies, survival rates have steadily risen and are now 95 per cent, one of the highest survival rates of all cancers.”


15th April

The mother of invention: The amazing array of health aids dreamt up by patients

“Prostate disorders affect 50 per cent of men over 40, so this device could help seven million men and prevent some of the 10,000 prostate cancer deaths a year, while saving the NHS £56million annually.”

17th April

Treatment that zaps prostate cancer cells developed by scientists

See press release here.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 6th April 2009

The story about the new drug which can shrink ovarian tumors has gone in ‘other’ as I can find no evidence of a published report of the trial (if anyone can point me in the right direction, I’ll happily upgrade it to ‘original research’, but until I’m happy that people with scientific knowledge have reviewed the research to be sound and agreed to put it out in an academic journal because it will be valuable to other academics I’ll carry on treating it like a press release).

However, the ‘oral sex linked to throat cancers’ is included in ‘Original research’, despite being 2 years old – note the similarity with this BBC story from 2007.

Anyway, in summary, this week a genetic flaw causes skin cancer, brocolli can prevent stomach cancer, yoga can help you deal with the depression that comes with knowing you have breast cancer and oral sex causes oral and throat cancers.

Original research

6th April

Discovered: The genetic flaw that triggers skin cancer

A report on: Dhomen et al. (2009) Oncogenic Braf Induces Melanocyte Senescence and Melanoma in Mice Cancer Cell 15:294-303

7th April

Eat broccoli every day for two months to help prevent stomach cancer, scientists claim

A report on: Yanaka et al. (2009) Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans Cancer Prevention Research 2:353

How yoga can help you cope with breast cancer

A report on: Danhauer et al. (2009) Restorative yoga for women with breast cancer: findings from a randomized pilot study Psycho-Oncology 18:360-368

8th April

Men look away: Oral sex REALLY does cause some throat cancers

A report on: D’Souza et al. (2009) Case-Control Study of Human Papillomavirus and Oropharyngeal Cancer New England Journal of Medicine 356:1944-1956

Causes in brief

6th April

Theme Park Britain – Courtesy of the BBC

“DDT, which completely ruined the reproductive system of the otter (as it is also linked to Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer etc)”

7th April

Severely burned man, 30, gets new face and hands in world-first operation

“Heavy use of immunosuppressors also boosts the risk of cancer.”

8th April

‘I was hooked on sunbeds twice a day. Then my skin fell off and I needed chemotherapy’

“In fact, the cash administrator had the deadliest form, a malignant melanoma, which is the most common form of cancer affecting women in their 20s.”

The tanorexia timebomb: Sunbeds blamed as skin cancer soars in young women

“Damage from UV builds up over time. Every time young people use a sunbed they are harming their skin and increasing their risk of cancer.'”

11th April

New vaccination fears over plan to give hepatitis jabs at eight weeks old

“The virus is commonly spread by unprotected sex and needle sharing among drug addicts, and is 100 times more infectious than HIV. The disease can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.”


6th April

How safe is the cervical cancer jab? Five teenagers reveal their alarming stories

“It has been hailed as the wonder jab that will prevent thousands of young women suffering the same terrible fate as Jade Goody. But as parents across Britain rush to have their daughters vaccinated, others are adamant that it has triggered alarming side-effects…”

7th April

Tumour-shrinking miracle drug gives fresh hope to women suffering ovarian cancer

“A drug developed by British scientists could offer fresh hope to women with ovarian cancer.”

9th April

Agonising hip pain is not just for the old… it could be triggered by a virus

“The difficulty for doctors is that a child’s limp can be a sign of far more sinister conditions such as cancer or septic arthritis in the hip which, without urgent antibiotics or surgery, can eat away at the joint.”

‘Wi-fi networks must be removed from schools to stop children getting cancer,’ teachers insist

“The Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for classroom wireless networks to be suspended immediately until research has properly considered the threat to health.”

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 30th March

Last week, I was somewhat concerned at the Mail’s modesty as they failed to take the credit for reporting miracle cancer cures. Well, this week here’s some more:

“In the week it was announced that hot tea gives you throat cancer, spending time on Facebook raises the risk of ‘serious health problems’ and just one glass of wine a day can increase the risk of cancer by 168 per cent (‘says shock new study’), we are pleased to introduce our new advice column, Ask A Health Scare Expert.” (Shock new study: We are ALL going to die! The Daily Mail, Friday, 3rd April 2009)

“Oh wait, didn’t that report last month show that any alcohol consumption increases the risk of liver and mouth cancer? Now I’m confused.

Just to clarify: it’s good to drink one glass a day if I haven’t got a baby, don’t do it on Sundays or Thursdays, use extra light margarine and not just the light stuff, and do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. That’s a lot of nanny’s advice to remember.” (Alcohol price hikes won’t stop binge drinkers – it will only penalise the rest of us, The Daily Mail, Thursday, 2nd April 2009)

And it’s a very good point: wine increases the risk of breast cancer (or, or), stops weight gain (or), turns you into a werewolf, increases the risk of liver and bowel cancers, is good for your heart when taken with fish, boosts your levels of omega 3 and so is good for the heart, is good for your back, can increase your risk of cancer, Parkinson’s and heart disesase, can lower lung cancer risk in men, and that’s just since October last year. Thank goodness Nanny Mail is watching our backs. If only the government’s advice on the effects of alcohol were as clear and consistent.

Original research

31st March

The health commandments all women should know based on research examining more than a MILLION of us

Which reports on this series of peer reviewed papers.

1st April

Nationwide screening ‘could halve cases of prostate cancer’

A report on: Pashayan, Duffy, Pharoah, Greenberg, Donovan, Martin, Hamdy and Neal (2009) Mean sojourn time, overdiagnosis, and reduction in advanced stage prostate cancer due to screening with PSA: implications of sojourn time on screening British Journal of Cancer 100:1198-1204.

Causes in brief

30th March

The man who survived TWO nuclear bombs: ‘Lucky’ Yamaguchi tells how he lived through Hiroshima… and fled home to Nagasaki

“Hundreds of thousands more people died in the years after the explosions from illnesses, and particularly cancer, brought on by their exposure to radiation.”

‘He didn’t need to die’: Wife’s harrowing story after husband diagnosed with IBS dies from bowel cancer

“Every year, around 35,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.”

1st April

A glass of red wine? It’s the drink to help you think

“Other studies have linked resveratrol with fighting old age, cancer, obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.”

2nd April

Brave Farrah Fawcett has crossed the world in search of a cancer cure – but can she find a miracle?

“Just 4,650 Americans are diagnosed with Farrah’s form of intestinal cancer every year and 700 die. Yet if caught early, the five-year survival rate is 80per cent.”

The ‘Superkid’ who can lift five-pound weights and move furniture at THREE

“Experts now believe that learning about Liam’s condition could lead to advances in treatments for muscle-wasting diseases including cancer, heart disease and HIV.”

3rd April

Ex-England, Spurs and United striker Sheringham tries a whole new ball game in a bid to save lives

“Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 44 while prostate cancer is the biggest killer of men over 50 – that’s a huge portion of football fans in the UK.”

4th April

Skinasty … Why Dynasty star Stephanie Beacham will NEVER go without sunblock again

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and there are two basic types: cancer in moles (malignant melanoma) and the non-melanoma group (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma).

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) begins in the outer layer of the skin, usually on the face and neck. It is six to eight times more common than malignant melanoma, but it never spreads to other parts of the body.

The disease is usually triggered by damage to the skin caused by sunlight. The first warning signs may be small – usually painless lumps, a sore with a raised border that will not heal or eczema-like changes on the skin.

Treatment is with surgery, topical chemotherapy and cryosurgery – which uses extreme cold to destroy tissue. If left untreated, the carcinoma can be disfiguring, cause bleeding and grow into nearby tissues and bone.”

5th April

Goodbye Jade: Thousands turn out for Princess Diana-style funeral

“And Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, spoke of a wonderful legacy.

She estimated that Jade’s efforts to publicise the need for cervical cancer screening will save up to 2,000 lives over the next five years.”


30th March

‘Natural’ breast enlargement using stem cells from spare fat to be made available in Britain

“Some experts have warned that stem cells should not be used in healthy women until large-scale trials on cancer patients have shown it is safe.

Eva Weiler-Mithoff, a consultant plastic surgeon at Canniesburn hospital in Glasgow, has treated more than ten British cancer patients with the technique and says it should not be offered to healthy women.”

New health checks for the over-40s ‘could save 650 lives a year’

“Cancer patients will be exempt from prescription charges and MRSA screening will take place in hospitals.”

(see also A health MoT for everyone over 40, under plan to save hundreds of lives)

Health notes; The post-chemo self-esteem boost

“Many women say that one of the most distressing things about having cancer treatment is the changes it causes to their looks.”

31st March

Bowel cancer soars by 120% among the under-30s

Right, this gets in ‘other’ because I can’t find the Parliamentary Questions the press release the story is based on is based on. It’s worth noticing that the 117% increase is, in real numbers from 63 people to 137. The fact it is increasing is of concern, but in terms of relative risk we’re still talking peanuts. Also mentions World Cancer Research Fund International (2009) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective; Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention London: WCRFI (see also Know your body … and protect yourself from bowel cancer, 4th April)

Failed asylum seekers are not entitled to free NHS treatment, rules judge

“Victory would have opened the door for thousands of failed claimants with conditions such as HIV or cancer to claim treatment and even benefits, paid for out of public funds.”

5th April

‘I fear that shampoo gives cancer to children’: Experts fury at Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘loopy’ health claims

“Gwyneth Paltrow has been branded ‘loopy’ by scientists after warning that products such as shampoo could be linked to cancer.”

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 23rd March 2009

If you’d like to know what causes cancer, in real time, try this.

Note, in the causes in brief – if you believe the internet, tea can cure cancer. Too modest, Daily Mail, too modest.

This week, being a guinea pig at Porton Down DOESN’T cause cancer. Interestingly. Preventing cancer this week is letting your tea cool before drinking it (so, by implication, drinking hot tea causes cancer), giving a rare mention to oesophageal cancer, and oily fish is what you want to avoid prostate cancer..

Original research

25th March

Straight from the teapot, a golden anti-cancer brew

A report on: Nune et al. (2009) Green nanotechnology from tea: phytochemicals in tea as building blocks for production of biocompatible gold nanoparticles Journal of Materials Chemistry doi: 10.1039/b822015h

Eating oily fish once a week slashes prostate cancer risk

A report on: Fradet et al. (2009) Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Cyclooxygenase-2 Genetic Variation, and Aggressive Prostate Cancer Risk Clinical Cancer Research doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2503

Ex-servicemen used as human guinea pigs by MoD scientists ARE more likely to die prematurely, study finds

A report on: Venables et al. (2009) Mortality in British military participants in human experimental research into chemical warfare agents at Porton Down: cohort study British Medical Journal doi: 10.1136/bmj.b613

27th March

Letting tea cool for four minutes ‘cuts risk of throat cancer’

A report on: Farhad Islami et al. (2009) Tea drinking habits and oesophageal cancer in a high risk area in northern Iran: population based case-control study British Medical Journal doi: 10.1136/bmj.b929

Causes in brief

23rd March

Floral, malty or chesty? Tea’s once again outselling coffee and there’s far more to it than one lump or two

“It’s not just the odd bit of flab – if you believe everything you read on the internet, tea can do everything from fight cancer to strengthen blood vessels, aid weight loss to sharpen concentration. It’s even said to prevent baldness.”

25th March

BBC facing viewer backlash over coverage of Jade Goody’s death

A BBC spokesman added: ‘Though Jade Goody was not the lead item on either the early evening BBC News bulletin or on the BBC News at Ten on Sunday, we did give the story appropriate prominence in our coverage.

‘Like other news organisations – we felt this was a big story both on the grounds of the level of public interest in the reality star, and the awareness of cervical cancer that her illness raised, and one which would be of interest to our audiences.'”

26th March

Pubs must offer smaller glasses of wine to cut drinking, says Government

“Last month, a report found that one large glass of wine a day can increase the risk of breast cancer by a quarter.”

(see Strange Ontology:Week beginning 16th February)

28th March

Beauty Bible; Beauty Clinic

“Using a sunbed once a month or so can increase your risk of skin cancer by more than half. When the tan fades, the damage remains.”

Noah’s a naughty boy … and we’re so thrilled, say parents whose child escaped deadly cancer

“The non-hereditary childhood cancer affects about 85 children in Britain every year.”


23rd March

‘The Jade effect’: A legacy of other lives saved as hospitals report 20% rise in cervical smears

“Jade’s very public battle against cervical cancer had one unexpected yet positive outcome. Thousands of lives could be saved because of the uptake in cervical smears seen in recent months.”

Health news: Red wine can stop weight gain, anti-smoking drug is calming and band aid for chemo patients

“Acupressure wrist bands – which apply force to a pressure point on the wrist – are used to treat travel sickness.

But doctors at Liverpool University believe they could also help cancer patients.”

25th March

Potential cures for Alzheimer’s and cancer threatened by EU red tape

“New cancer treatments, which, like breast cancer ‘wonder drug’ Herceptin work by homing in on rogue proteins in the body, can also only be tested on monkeys and other highly-developed animals, the scientists said.”

27th March

NHS unveils ‘Robodoc’ the £1.5m mechanical surgeon set to revolutionise cancer treatment

“The groundbreaking ‘Da Vinci Surgical System’ has already been used successfully in 20 operations to remove the prostate glands of cancer victims.”